Benjamin Booker – ‘Benjamin Booker’

The New Orleans newcomer puts his own gnarly spin on vintage rock'n'roll

You could take new Rough Trade charge Benjamin Booker as an open book: bourbon-drenched vocals, thrift-store chic and a New Orleans base on the banks of the Mississippi. His debut lives and breathes the Deep South, from the Chuck Berry references (most effective on opener ‘Violent Shiver’) to the slower, more hushed tones of ‘I Thought I Heard You Screaming’, which sees Booker take his vocal cues straight from Bobbie Gentry’s late-’60s peak.

It’s also something of a love affair with the guitar, with Booker and his band firing off Zep-style grandiosity (‘Have You Seen My Son?’), proper Bolan pomp (‘Happy Homes’) and, on ‘Wicked Waters’, a reworking of Eddie Cochran’s ’50s classic ‘Twenty Flight Rock’. The best song here though, is ‘Old Hearts’, which takes the blueprint honed by his rock’n’roll forebears and transports them bang into 2014, gnarly and gloriously unrepentant.
Matt Wilkinson